If a new study showed that teen pregnancies had increased and hit an all-time high, I guarantee you there would be talk show hosts, politicians and religious groups that would use the new information to condemn sexual content in music videos, song lyrics, on TV and in movies for the unacceptable increase in teen pregnancies. There would also be the regular chorus of voices proclaiming that teenagers today are reckless with their sexual activities and do not think about the consequences of their behavior.
Well, here is the shocking headline: "U.S. teen pregnancy rates hit an all-time lowwith all ethnicities!"
Media reaction to these new statistical facts will not equal the reaction if the facts had shown an increase in teen pregnancies. This again reminds us that the media and talk show hosts are driven by controversies that fit preconceived opinions rather than the truth. In fact, the new report indicates the percentage of pregnant teenagers was higher in 1946 than it is today!
There have been numerous campaigns promoting the need for the distribution of free condoms to teenagers. Recently, Dr. Rebecca O'Brien, the lead author of a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Adolescence said free condoms should be available everywhere and not just in healthcare settings – including shopping malls – all in an effort to combat teen pregnancies.
Apparently, condom availability is not an issue. It should also be pointed out that if teen pregnancies have hit an all-time low at a time when the popular rhetoric focuses on blaming entertainment for the alleged increases in teen pregnancies, then we can logically conclude that it's just that – rhetoric rather than reality.
Negative news always attracts more attention than positive news and the new report showing teen pregnancies hitting a new low will further demonstrate this media tendency. The media is a function of society, which is made up of humans, so it is not entirely the media's fault. Human nature is more to blame. We are more fascinated with negative news than positive news. If your neighbor is caught having an affair, that will probably generate more buzz than if a neighbor's teen makes the honor roll at school.
I may be the only one in the media who will recognize that today's teenagers should be praised for the teen pregnancy rate reaching an all-time low, but my fear is that only if the opposite were true would there be a loud response to the report.
The new report showing the decrease in teen pregnancies does not mean too many teens are not still being reckless with their sexual behavior, but the facts should denounce the propensity to quickly blame entertainment and outside influences for teen pregnancies.
Teen pregnancies and even unexpected adult pregnancies have so much more to do with personal accountability than sex in entertainment or the lack of free condoms for teens. The downfall of American society is led by the deteriorating respect for personal accountability. If something, or someone else is always to blame for bad decisions, then everyone feels better about themselves. But the failure to acknowledge personal accountability has continued to contribute to a feel-good society that is blameless. When blame is not accurately placed – the problem can never be fixed.
However, if there would be criticism of teens if the teen pregnancy rate had hit a new high, then isn't it only fair to give positive reinforcement to teenagers who have pushed the rate of pregnancies among their peers to a new low?
Every year we hear about the war on Christmas – is it real or is it media hype?
One could easily get the impression that the war on Christmas is escalating and is but one battle in a bigger government war on Christianity. I often write about the media and its relationship with society – something I have talked about throughout my career. The news media benefits from controversy, therefore creates controversy. Over the years, there has been a growing fear that the government is attempting to remove Christianity and God from American society and the perceived war on Christmas fits that trend perfectly.
Blaming the ills of America on the removal of school-led prayers from public schools in the early 1960s has only become more popular with many Americans. Political correctness has often been misinterpreted as a liberal attempt to sanitize America of God and individual freedoms, when it originally was nothing more than an attempt to establish criteria for a more inclusive America. Political correctness has gotten out of control, but it should not be seen as a force that has the power to rob this country of all that makes it unique.
As polarizing talk radio and cable TV network news channels have redefined the modern news media, controversy has become the industry's most valuable inventory. The head cheerleader for the war on Christmas has been FOX News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, who every year fans the flames of fear that Christmas is being taken from us. This is not an attack on Bill O'Reilly or the FOX News Channel, but they have been one of the prominent sources promoting the idea that there is a war on Christmas, which placates a specific audience that is prone to accept what they want to be real. And both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of believing what they want to believe, rather than seek the truth.
For the record, the current war on Christmas can be traced back to 1959, when the right-wing organization, the John Birch Society, issued a pamphlet titled, "There Goes Christmas." It warned of a communist plot to remove all Christmas decorations from American society and replace them with United Nations symbols. The concern was that the United States would be taken over by the United Nations. Interestingly, aided by today's social media, the fear that the United States is positioning itself for a United Nations take-over has become part of current controversies, for example, the gun control debate.
The American Family Association, along with other groups and individuals, condemned the use of "Xmas" in place of Christmas arguing that it is another attempt to remove "Christ" from Christmas. The current-day interpretation of "Xmas" ignores the real meaning behind it. "Xmas" was originally a simple abbreviation. The "X" does not cross out or replace Christ, the "X" is the Greek letter for chi, which is the first letter in the word "Christ." Yet, those who are prone to paranoia and hysteria have accepted the modern – but inaccurate –interpretation of "Xmas."
Every year during this season, there is general criticism of the use of "HappyHolidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." The American Family Association used this to further spread the war on Christmas hysteria. This year, the AFA is calling for a boycott of all Radioshack stores because their website uses "Holiday" rather than "Christmas" in promoting "Holiday Deals,""Holiday Gift Guides" and "Holiday Cash."
There was criticism of Wal-Mart when the company first directed all of the store greeters to say "Happy Holidays" to customers as they entered the stores. While I agree "Merry Christmas" should not be offensive to those who don't celebrate Christmas, I can also understand that the more inclusive "Happy Holidays" relates to more consumers this time of year. The motivation behind "Happy Holidays" may be rooted more in consumerism than in secularism.
The phrase war on Christmas is promoted when there is a news story about a public school banning religious-oriented Christmas songs, or when there is public objection to a Christmas tree or a nativity scene on public property. An atheist organization put up a giant "A" and posted an anti-Christmas banner in Chicago to protest a nativity scene on city property.
I can argue that atheists and non-Christians should not be offended by any public acknowledgment of Christmas. Both sides of the Christmas controversy should learn to be more accepting of opposing views on the holiday, since the celebration and recognition of Christmas is usually void of attempts to convert non-believers. It's just a celebration and not a recruiting opportunity.
As you hear the stories that are linked to the alleged war on Christmas this holiday season, ask yourself if and how the government or retail outlets have actually taken Christmas away from you and your family. Have you lost your ability to celebrate Christmas in the traditional way that reflects your faith?
Before you join the crusade to fight a war that really may not be a war at all, think about your personal appreciation of this sacred holiday. Even in the few cases where neighborhoods have asked homeowners to remove Christmas decorations because they violate community rules, has that robbed anyone of celebrating Christmas?
All of the examples used to justify the alleged war on Christmas involve items and activities that are tangible, commercial and arguably for show. The real meaning of Christmas lives in our hearts and our minds and I do not believe the government or anyone can take that away from you and your family. The real war on Christmas is being waged by those who have become paranoid and hysterical that the celebration of Christmas is in jeopardy.
If the removal of Christmas decorations from anywhere in society or the singing of religious-oriented Christmas songs in schools takes away your Christmas spirit – I suggest that maybe your Christmas spirit was not very strong to begin with!
A billboard featuring a young American soldier in a loving embrace with a young Muslim female has caused controversy on Hollywood's Sunset Blvd. The words that accompany the picture on the billboard are "Snore Stop: keeping peopletogether"#betogether.
The billboard is for a company called Snore Stop, which sells nasal sprays, oral sprays and pills that prevent people from snoring. The company promotes that their products help keep marriages together by preventing snoring.
By using a picture of an American soldier holding a young Muslim female with the words "#betogether," the company is encouraging controversy because of the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. Much of the tension felt by the U.S. in recent years has originated in the Middle East and the vision of an American soldier romantically involved with a Muslim woman is appalling to some Americans.
The company Snore Stop should be commended on a creative marketing campaign that was certain to attract attention, and sometimes the best attention comes in the form of controversy. But the reason this billboard is controversial uncovers an unfortunate tendency to judge.
First of all, we should be able to look back on our nation's past and realize that the judgment of people based on race, nationality, religion, etc. is wrong. Times have changed, but sadly, there are still Americans who are offended by the sight of biracial couples. Consider how the Japanese were perceived before and during World War II compared to the respect Americans now have for the Japanese and the overwhelming acceptance of American/Japanese couples. The hate for the Japanese, at one time, was equal to the hate many have for Muslims in the Middle East today.
During the Vietnam War, American soldiers met Vietnamese women and many fell in love and married. Would it be any more unusual for an American soldier to meet and fall in love with a Muslim woman - or a female soldier meeting and falling in love with a Muslim man?
Why are so many people instinctively threatened by the blending of cultures? America is changing as the world is changing, but change should not always manifest fear in the general population. The fear of losing the purity of a race, nationality or religion can be more subconscious and less admitted, but the mobility of the world's population and instant communications have ushered global changes as more and more individuals with different backgrounds cross paths.
In his book, "Megatrends 2000," author John Naisbitt suggested that the more homogenized the world becomes – the greater the fear of losing our individual identity, thus the stronger the instinct to protect the purity of that identity. Sometimes our instincts may appear evil, but actually result fromnon-malicious intent. The idea of protecting the purity of a race, nationality or religion, for example, has become archaic in the context of the world in which we now live. Not only is protecting the purity of groups archaic, but it closely resembles Hitler's evil motive to create and maintain a superior race.
Since we cannot predict who we will fall in love with, or when, we should all be more accepting of any two people who find that still unexplained emotion of love. Love is not always easy to find and we should celebrate those who find it, rather than condemn the vast differences between the two individuals who fall in love.
I applaud Snore Stop for having the courage to put up a billboard with a young American soldier romantically embracing a young Muslim – not only because of its ability to attract attention for the company – but mostly because it challenges stereotypes.
I have witnessed America celebrate stereotyping as a recreational sport. Rather than accept the diversity of individuals and couples, we are quick to stereotype for the sole purpose of expressing hate in our hearts.
It is not for everyone to understand why others fall in love – whether American and Muslim couples, black and white couples, same-sex couples, etc… Before you allow the visual on a billboard of a young American soldier and a young Muslim female to inspire judgment in you, stop and realizewho someone falls in love with really is not your concern.
Early settlers fell in love with Native Americans, Christians fall in love with Jews, Muslims and atheists and conservatives even fall in love with liberals!Controversies, like the billboard in Hollywood, force us to address our instinctive judgment of others, which distracts from the respect we should have for the emotion of love.
The Saints are 9-3 and they are still in a prime position to win the division and move into the playoffs, however, last night's loss to the Seattle Seahawks was a reality check!
The Saints did nothing to silence the critics who say they are not a good team on the road in cold weather. The Saints were soundly out-coached and out-played at every level of offense and defense. The coaches and players seemed confused and out-of-sync from the first play. I think I heard one of the announcers say, "And at the end of the Star Spangled Banner – it's Seahawks 17 - Saintsnothing!"
The Saints full blitzes reminded me of the defense last year. They rushed Seahawks' QB Russell Wilson, but did not sack him or pressure him enough to throw him off his game and there were not enough players to cover the receivers. The defense was torched. Russell Wilson is an amazing talent with confidence and a sense for the game beyond his years. We can only hope Rob Ryan has a better plan to contain Cam Newton when the Saints play the Panthers Sunday.
Last night, Seahawks fans set a new world record for being the loudest crowd in a stadium when the meter hit 137.6 decibels! Noise was certainly a factor, but not an excuse for the loss. The Saints wore specially-molded noise reduction earplugs. It might seem insignificant, but wouldn't a foreign object in your ear affect your performance? When anything distracts us from our comfort zones in life, we struggle to perform at the highest level. I can't help but wonder if the special earpieces added to all of the other factors that led to the Saints never getting into a winning rhythm.
If the Saints couldn't do anything right – the Seahawks couldn't do anything wrong. There were numerous examples of how the Seahawks could enforce their will against the Saints, but one example that comes to mind was late in the 4th quarter – the Seahawks were leading 34 -17 and it was 4th and one. The Seahawks went for it and passed for a first down completion. Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll has a young, brazen team - and an attitude to match.
To add to the frustration of the loss, the Saints were stuck in Seattle overnight due to mechanical problems with the team's charter plane. So, now a short week gets even shorter and the last minute challenge of finding a hotel for the team had to be a nightmare for team officials. If you have ever been stuck in a city for an unexpected overnight stay, you can relate to how difficult it was for the Saints to lose to the Seahawks the way they did and then be stuck in Seattle.
If the Saints recover from this loss and beat the Panthers Sunday night at home in the dome, the criticism that the
Saints are an indoor team will continue, but let's remember the Saints are still in a position to prove those critics wrong. It's possible that the Saints will meet the Seahawks again in the playoffs in Seattle, which would present another opportunity to prove the critics wrong.
There is no reason to overreact or panic over the tough loss to the Seahawks and every reason to believe the Saints will bounce back and redeem themselves against the Panthers Sunday night. Yes, this is a short week that is now shorter because of mechanical problems with the team plane, but let's not start making excuses. If today would have been a day for team meetings to start planning for the Panthers, then the long flight home could become the meeting room. The team could divide into offense, defense and special teams on the plane and coaches could hold meetings with the players. I realize that is not an ideal situation, but sometimes life throws us curves and our only option is to adjust and not look for excuses for failure.
You know I like to use football as a metaphor for life. I can think of countless times in my career when unexpected things forced me to overcome obstacles that might cause some to lose their resolve to "get the job done" no matter what the circumstances, and I'm sure you can think of times when you faced challenges that gave you a chance to prove who you are.
It is easier to excel when everything is going right. Real champions rise out of the challenges and obstacles that define character. The Saints have a chance to show their character by putting the loss behind them and dealing with the logistical nightmare of being stuck in Seattle overnight. And Saints fans should put this loss behind them and focus on Sunday night's nationally televised game against the Panthers. If the Saints had beaten the Seahawks last night, fans might be more encouraged to have the attitude that we will break the crowd noise record set in Seattle last night, but there is no reason why we shouldn't promote the idea that we can try to break the crowd noise record this Sunday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome!
Last night's game may have just set the stage of a bigger drama to unfold. The Saints come home to beat the Carolina Panthers ending their 8-game winning streak. And the Saints may have the opportunity to play Seattle again when the stakes are even higher. The loss to the Seahawks was a disappointing chapter in a book that is far from the final chapter being written on the 2013-14 season.
"It isn't a playoff game – it just feels like one!" That's the way tonight's Monday Night Football game between the Saints and the Seahawks is being promoted!
The 9-2 Saints are in second place behind the first-place 10-1 Seahawks in the NFC and tonight's game could determine home-field advantage for the playoffs.
Not only does tonight's game feel like a playoff game, but it's interesting that ever since the Seahawks eliminated the Saints from the playoffs a couple of years ago, this match-up has become an unexpected and heated rivalry.
Seattle and New Orleans are as different as the 2,101 miles that separate the two cities – with one exception. Seattle is nicknamed the Emerald City. It is pristine and clean and sits on Puget Sound and is bordered by several lakes. The evergreen trees reach high into the sky and since freezes are rare the landscape is thick with breathtaking flowers and foliage. The temperatures are cool for 10 months of the year, but it is cloudy and rainy throughout the year. Seattle is nestled among mountains to the West, East, North and South and on clear days the sight of snow-capped Mt. Rainer provides a majestic backdrop to the South. Elliot Bay and Puget Sound are a deep emerald green. Seattle is a beautiful city with a rich history and I truly enjoyed the opportunity to live and work there.
New Orleans, in many ways, is the opposite of Seattle and I don't mean that in a negative way. New Orleans is authentic and frivolous and even though there are a few areas of Seattle where there is a party atmosphere, nothing there compares to the unbridled enthusiasm of being in the French Quarter or the unique and amazing history of our city. But it is the collection of people in New Orleans – our culture – that distinguishes us from Seattle or any other city in America. And while Seattle has a bounty of fresh seafood due to its proximity to the water, it's just not the same as the seasoned seafood we all enjoy in New Orleans. I loved Seattle, but I am happy to be back home and on the air in New Orleans.
But the one thing New Orleans and Seattle share most is their fanatical, rabid football fans! Every NFL city has crazy, dedicated fans, but having lived in both cities, as well as other NFL cities, I can tell you from first-hand experience that Saints fans and Seahawks fans share a uniquely devout and fanatical dedication to their teams!
Tonight in Seattle, Seahawks fans are going to try to break an NFL record that you would think would be owned by Saints fans. Tonight, Seahawks fans are going to try to set a crowd noise record by hitting 137 decibels – and that's in an outdoor stadium! Recently, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome I watched the decibel meter hit 118 decibels, which is the level of an extremely loud rock concert. IF Seahawks fans break the NFL record for crowd noise, regardless of the outcome of the game – the WHO DAT Nation must be on a mission to break it and set a new record in the dome!
Every year at the beginning of the season, there are those Saints fans who proclaim, "We're going to the SuperBowl this year!" After the Saints beat the Falcons in the season-opener and then went on to beat the Bucs and the Cardinals, some fans and many in the media started comparing this year's Saints to the 2009 Saints that won the Super Bowl. I was called an "ass" by one listener and called a "non-believer" by a few, for saying it was too soon talk about the Saints and the Super Bowl. I was quick to point out that any fan who called me an "ass" or a "non-believer" for making the observation that it was too early to talk about going to the Super Bowl would also have to say the same things to Sean Payton and Drew Brees – who both rejected playoff and Super Bowl talk at that early point in the season. I was in good company!
However, I think it's time to talk about the Saints and the playoffs. Though there are a number of big games left, including the Carolina Panthers next Sunday night in the nationally televised game from the dome, this 2013 Saints team has proven it is worthy of playoff expectations.
I am not a "football expert," but I do understand the game and the psychology of human motivation. Statistics are never as important as the intangible factor of human motivation. Sports history is rich with conquest stories of teams with lesser talent beating teams with superior talent and the only explanation is the factor of human motivation.
The Saints have dealt with their share of serious injuries to key players on offense and defense. Yet, this team has shown a desire to overcome any and all challenges and rise to the occasion to win. I have never been a Saints fan who blindly says "The Saints are going to win!" I always want the Saints to win, but I have always tried to be honest and realistic with about a game. There are so many factors that go into any victory that I have no idea how tonight's game will end, but over the past few weeks I have seen this game on the horizon and felt like the Saints would beat Seattle in Seattle. I also think this Saints team will beat Carolina in next Sunday's nationally televised game from New Orleans. This year's Saints are a special team – not only because of talent – but because of the element of human motivation.
When my predictions are accurate I have always placed a great deal of consideration on desire and motivation. Seattle has desire and motivation and they will have the kind of home field advantage the Saints enjoy in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but the talent and the emotion of the Saints right now will be the difference and the Saints will overcome yet another huge challenge on their way to the playoffs by beating the Seahawks in Seattle and by winning on the road in a very hostile environment – which will silence the critics who label the Saints a "dome team."
I heard a story that during the run to the Super Bowl in 2009, when the Saints played a hot Dolphins team in Miami, Sean Payton used the opportunity to tell the team - something to the effect of - get used to what it feels like to play here, because we will be back when we play here in the Super Bowl. That was the year the Saints beat the Colts and won the Super Bowl in Miami. If the weather conditions are not perfect, I wonder if Coach Payton will use the moment to tell the Saints they need to embrace playing in an outdoor stadium where the weather can be a factor, because the Super Bowl will be in an open stadium in New Jersey next year!
Enjoy the game tonight – this is another very special Saints team!